ISKCON Houston’s Goswami Academy, an elementary school from pre-K to fifth grade, is already a success, teaching students from its own large congregation as well as ISKCON children from other states.
But now the school, established in 2014, is also hoping to attract students from the broader Houston community to avail of its values-based education.
“There is a serious lack of values in our education system,” says school board chairman Saranga Thakur Das, who feels that ISKCON can really contribute something toward this need.
To show the public what it has to offer, Goswami Academy has scheduled an open house event for Saturday March 11th, which will be widely advertised in local media outlets.
Over 200 people are expected. The day will start at 10:30am, with the school children leading visitors in a kirtan procession to first tour the grand new ISKCON Houston temple (also built in 2014), and then the school building, located within the temple premises.
In the classroom at Goswami Academy
During the school tour, visitors will get to see the classrooms, meet the teachers and the principal Subhra Dasi, and talk to parents whose children are already enrolled. They’ll then have lunch at the new Govinda’s restaurant, which is offering a buy one, get one free special for its own grand opening event.
During this time, there will be fun kids’ activities in the courtyard to keep visiting children engaged while their parents talk to the teachers, including facepainting, balloons, a treasure hunt and other games.
One of the children’s games sets up another exciting new development – a new school building for the Goswami Academy. Kids will get to color in pictures of the building design, and the best will win a prize.
Currently, the school shares a building with the ISKCON Houston Sunday School. The new Goswami Academy building will have about 10,000 square feet of space and state-of-the-art lab, library, and computer room facilities. It will also accommodate more age groups, introducing a nursery for ages two and up (currently only students from three are accepted) and running all the way to eighth grade in middle school. It will be located just 1,000 feet from the temple.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new building will be held the day after the open house, on the auspicious of Gaura Purnima, March 12th. Construction will start immediately, with a view to opening the building for the 2017/2018 school year.
Kirtan for the classroom Deities
Even before then, the Goswami Academy is already an attractive prospect. The school currently has twenty students from pre-K to fifth grade, including ISKCON devotee families from North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle, who heard about it through word of mouth and have already moved to Dallas to enroll their children in it. There are also already a couple of students from outside the ISKCON community, whose parents were attracted to the school’s values-based education and high academic standards.
Academics adhere to state standards but are also inquiry-based, challenging and cutting edge – children learn through exploration, experiements and interacting with each other.
Values – such as compassion, respect, tolerance, and humility – are not taught in isolation but integrated into the curriculum. They’re also learned through practical application rather than just theory.
“For example, in our school we see children all the way from three-year-olds to fifth graders practically applying compassion all the time,” says principal Subhra Dasi, who previously served as a public school teacher in California.
“If they arrive and their friend is not there, they’ll immediately remind the teachers to call their friend’s parents to find out if they’re sick. Then when the friend returns, they’ll ask them, ‘Are you okay? Did you go to the doctor?’ Or if somebody slips and falls while walking up the steps, they’ll help each other, bring them to a teacher to ask for a band aid – things like that.”
Students also learn leadership skills from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Kids, learning important skills like conflict resolution, being proactive, and listening before trying to be understood. Other classes include gardening, yoga, and Spanish language.
Students also learn Bhagavad-gita and Siksastakam prayers, Sanskrit, and do kirtan every day. But nothing spiritual is forced.
“If a new student comes in and doesn’t want to clap their hands during kirtan, I’m not going to tell them they have to,” Subhra says. “I want that to come from their heart. What’s more, as teachers we try to set by example rather than telling them – we’ll take kirtan as important, and they’ll see us sitting down and enjoying it.”
With this mood, not only ISKCON parents but also parents from the broader community don’t feel like anything is being pushed on their children. “The mother of one of our students from outside the ISKCON congregation was just recently telling us how much she loves the positive vibration of the maha-mantra and the Siksastakam, and how they change the whole environment in her home,” Subhra says.
Subhra hopes that March 11th’s open house attracts more parents from the broader community looking for values-based education for their children.
She’s also excited about the future. “We’re really looking forward to the new school building and facilities,” she says. “And we’re so happy that our ISKCON Houston Temple President, Shyamasundara Prabhu, has placed education of our children as a priority.”
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For directions and more information on the Open House, visit https://www.goswamiacademyopenhouse.com/
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